This morning, three federal judges overturned the Children's Internet Protection Act and ruled that public libraries cannot be forced to use Internet filters designed to block pornography. In the 195-page decision, judges asserted that the Act went too far because the filters could also block access to other legitimate sites, which is a violation of the First Amendment. The Act, which was signed by President Clinton in 2000 and widely criticized by First Amendment advocates, would have required public libraries to install the Internet filters, or risk losing federal funding. This recent decision has been applauded by the American Library Association (ALA) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which contends that the law is "unenforceable, unconstitutional, vague and overbroad." Furthermore, they argue that it denies "poor people without home computers the same access to information as their wealthier neighbors because the software could mistakenly block Web sites on issues such as breast cancer and homosexuality."
Prior to the Children's Internet Protection Act, two other anti-Internet pornography laws were brought before federal judges for constitutional challenges, and overturned. In 1996, the Communications Decency Act (which made it a crime to put adult-oriented material online where children can find it), was declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court; and in 1998, the 3rd US Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the Child Online Protection Act (which required Web sites to collect a credit card number or other proof of age before allowing Internet users to view material deemed "harmful to minors"), stating it was too broad and vague. For more information on the recent court decision regarding the Children's Internet Protection Act, viewers can access the first link above. The second link provides access to a full copy of the court's decision on the case. Links three and four lead to home pages of the American Library Association and the American Civil Liberties Union, respectively. Lastly, links five, six, and seven provide access to copies of the Children's Internet Protection Act; the 1998 House of Representatives report on the Child Online Protection Act; and the 1996 Communications Decency Act, respectively.